By LEONARD SPARKS
WASHINGTON (Jan. 27, 2009)—Maryland is moving forward with creating transportation options that reduce road congestion and the state's carbon footprint, the state's transportation secretary told Congress Tuesday.
Secretary John D. Porcari told the House Highways and Transit Subcommittee that the state is taking an "all of the above" approach to combating gridlock and cutting transportation-related carbon dioxide emissions.
"Whether it's de-carbonizing our fuel, reducing vehicle miles traveled per road, doubling transit ridership (or) doubling fuel efficiency ... every piece of that has a place in the process," Porcari said.
The hearing took place as the House prepares to reauthorize a comprehensive transit bill that includes spending for highways, public transportation and a range of other transit-related projects, including programs to reduce congestion and reduce the effect of transportation projects on the environment.
Porcari joined transportation officials from New York City and Oregon in sharing ideas for curtailing energy consumption and making transportation more energy-efficient.
In addition to participating in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative's carbon cap-and-trade program, the state is applying "green" building standards to public buildings and replacing the state's bus and car fleets with hybrids.
And as part of the Woodrow Wilson Memorial Bridge replacement, the state created fish reefs and wetlands and restored streams.
Porcari also touted the benefits of coordinating transportation development with land use, as well as the economic and environmental benefits of light-rail transportation.
The state is studying three light rail proposals: a 14-mile line from Rockville to Clarksburg; a 10.5-mile line through Baltimore; and a 16-mile line from Bethesda to New Carrollton.
The use of light rail is less disruptive to communities than subway systems, is more attractive to private developers and more durable than options like rapid bus systems, Porcari said.
"You could make a reasonable assumption that the system will be there 100 years from now," he said.
Rohit Aggarwala, director of New York City's office of long-term planning and sustainability, said the federal government could help by integrating policies dealing with land use, cars and transit.
"All of these things have to fit together," he said.
Porcari, Aggarwala and Fred Hansen, general manager for Tri-County Metropolitan Transportation District of Oregon, all called for a greater federal investment in transportation.
Without a greater investment, the country will continue to depend on imported oil and suffer from a lack of transportation options, Hansen said.
"We have not made those investments," he said, "and I think this nation is paying a price for that."
Capital News Service contributed to this report.